Talks of an end to Rafael Nadal's reign proved premature once again as the claycourt king stayed on course for a record-extending men's 22nd Grand Slam title by beating arch rival Novak Djokovic 6-2, 4-6, 6-2, 7-6(4) in a vintage French Open quarter-final clash on Tuesday.

The 13-time Roland Garros champion, beaten by the world number one in the semi-finals here last year, arrived in Paris on the back of two injuries that had hampered his preparations.

Having already survived a five-set thriller against Felix Auger Aliassime in the previous round, the Spaniard, who has only lost three times at the French Open since his first campaign in 2005, knows every inch of the immense court Philippe Chatrier and Djokovic paid for the reminder.

AS IT HAPPENED: French Open 2022: Nadal knocks out defending champion Djokovic to reach semis, HIGHLIGHTS

The Serbian is still stuck at 20 Grand Slam titles after being barred from taking part in the Australian Open by local authorities over his refusal to get vaccinated against COVID-19 - a major that Nadal won.

On the day teenager Carlos Alcaraz, who has been widely tipped as his successor, was knocked out, Nadal threw the punches and had defending champion Djokovic on the ropes in a high octane start under the spotlights.

Djokovic fought back in an 88-minute second set but the 35-year-old Nadal, backed by a partisan crowd, found the resources to end it in four sets despite being a break down in the fourth and set up a meeting with German third seed Alexander Zverev for a place in Sunday's final.

Zverev beat Alcaraz in four sets earlier.

Zverev outlasts Alcaraz

German third seed Alexander Zverev capitalised on an error-filled performance from Carlos Alcaraz to tame the high-flying teenaged Spaniard 6-4, 6-4, 4-6, 7-6(7) and reach a second straight semi-final at the French Open.

This was the first time the 25-year-old Zverev defeated a top-10 opponent at a Grand Slam in 12 attempts and his victory came against a player who came into the contest having won 14 consecutive matches.

 

Zverev, who lost to Stefanos Tsitsipas in the 2021 semi-final, had a 2-1 head-to-head lead against Alcaraz but his opponent had won their most recent meeting -- the only one on clay -- this month in the final of the ATP Masters in Madrid.

Alcaraz made 56 unforced errors as Zverev saved a set point in the fourth set tiebreak before converting his second matchpoint to set up a meeting against either world number one Novak Djokovic or 13-time French Open champion Rafa Nadal.

"At the end of the day I knew I had to play absolutely my best tennis today from the start," a beaming Zverev said on court. "He kept coming back.

"He is going to win this tournament a lot of times not just once. I hope I can win it before he starts beating us all and I have no chance."

UNFORCED ERRORS

On a sun-bathed Court Philippe Chatrier, Zverev brought his best form to the match, serving strongly and remaining solid in the rallies against his athletic opponent who chased down almost everything that came his side of the net.

But Alcaraz seemed too eager to impose himself on the match early and it resulted in an array of unforced errors from the young Spaniard.

A couple of mistakes from Alcaraz in the fifth game opened the door for Zverev and he pounced to get the first break, which proved enough for him to bag the opening set.

Alcaraz, bubbling with energy and with most of the boisterous crowd on his side, became increasingly frustrated, throwing his hands up and muttering to himself but he could not find a way to rein in his unforced errors.

He committed 16 in each of the opening two sets and a break in the seventh game of the second gave the German the advantage which he turned into a 2-0 lead in the match.

Alcaraz's fearless attitude bore fruit in the third set when he turned on his magic to break Zverev's delivery in the 10th game and get a foothold in the match.

With Alcaraz's fightback gaining momentum, Zverev stayed calm on his service games and, with a stunning backhand down the line on the run and an Alcaraz double fault, the German got his nose ahead.

The Spaniard would, however, not go down without a fight and with Zverev serving for the match, Alcaraz converted a breakpoint with a backhand winner to get the set back on serve and get the crowd back on their feet.

Zverev saved a set point and then converted his second matchpoint with a breathtaking backhand service return, letting out a huge roar after completing the victory after three hours and 18 minutes.

"For me obviously when it is shady and much slower it is not perfect for me," Zverev added. "I did not get broken once when it was sunny. The match was turning his way, I'm extremely happy I won the tiebreak."